The European Commission has struck a deal with Audi over a system of choosing and authorising repair shops in its network that Brussels will use as a model for other manufacturers trying to follow the European Union’s new block exemption regime, writes Keith Nuthall.

The German car manufacturer will henceforth run a “system of qualitative selective distribution” for after-sales service, in effect choosing members of its network on the basis of open standards that any repair shops can attempt to follow. Audi parent Volkswagen has confirmed that it will operate the system for all brands within its group.

Competition Commissioner Mario Monti said: “The settlement achieved with Volkswagen and Audi provides the first example of action taken with respect to the new rules in the motor vehicle sector. It is intended to serve as guidance to the entire motor vehicle sector. As a result of the precedent set, many small repairers will be able to stay on within Audi's authorised network, and will have a better opportunity to compete.”

The new system was created after the Commission received a string of complaints from Audi dealers and repairers whose contracts had been terminated by Audi ahead of the introduction of the EU’s new and more laissez-faire block exemption regime last October. The former Audi partners had complained that they met the standards demanded by the manufacturer; the new agreement will allow them to rejoin the Audi network.